No 'audit trail' to explain how church hall jumped up the funding rankings

St Macartin’s Cathedral Hall in Enniskillen received £870,000 in SIF funds.
St Macartin’s Cathedral Hall in Enniskillen received £870,000 in SIF funds.

THE Auditor General has heavily criticised the lack of transparency in how millions of pounds of Social Investment Fund (SIF) money was allocated, with no "audit trail" to show how projects were scored during selection process.

One of the cases pointed to by Kieran Donnelly's office was that of St Macartin’s Cathedral Hall in Enniskillen, which was originally number 27 in the ranking for funding in the Western zone but ended up at number five, without any explanation as to why it jumped up the list.

The Halls Together Now project was eventually awarded £542,000, however this increased to £870,000 due to increased building costs.

Audit office investigators asked the The Executive Office (TEO) for a copy of the final scoring for the project but were told "they did not hold it".

Read More:

  • Sinn Féin and DUP continue to defend SIF scheme despite Audit Office report
  • Stormont speaker among those to declare conflict of interest

The report noted that "there is no documentation to justify why the ranking had changed" for Halls Together Now.

The Audit Office said that TEO is "ultimately accountable for the decisions taken in awarding public funding to projects".

"Decisions concerning project selection should be clearly documented and the Department should ensure that it holds an audit trail of the process.

Read More:

  • Analysis: Damning SIF report will only add to public disillusionment with Stormont (Premium)
  • Damning audit report on Social Investment Fund finds a shocking lack of transparency
  • Project that has cost public thousands among schemes singled out in SIF audit report

"A clear audit trail allows the Department to justify why decisions were made and demonstrate that assessment processes have been applied fairly, consistently and transparently", the report states.

A spokesperson for TEO said last night that they accept "all recommendations and will respond formally through a memorandum of reply setting out how it will implement the recommendations going forward".